Michigan vs Michigan State Football — Looking Back – 2012

Looking Back is a Special Feature by Jeff Cummins Highlighting Key Rivalry Games

The fourth installment of this year’s series looking back at classic games between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back to 2012.

The previous season had seen a complete restoration of Michigan pride, with one notable exception. Brady Hoke was indoctrinated as the head coach by renewing an old Michigan tradition: Michigan lost to Michigan State in Hoke’s first year, just as the Wolverines had lost to the Spartans in Bo Schembechler’s first year.

The 2012 campaign proved to be considerably more challenging than 2011 for Michigan. The Wolverines dropped early games to Alabama and Notre Dame, and some of the luster from the previous season seemed to have faded. The grudge match against Michigan State proved to be just the tonic for the Wolverines.

Once the game began, it quickly took on the character of many clashes between Michigan and Michigan State, evolving into a hard-hitting, low-scoring affair. There were plenty of offensive theatrics, but they produced few points. On this day, the Wolverines relied heavily on the dependable feet of their kickers, and they delivered in the clutch.

Michigan trailed by a point as the fourth quarter began, but Brendan Gibbons promptly erased that deficit with a 21-yard field goal. The lead didn’t last long, as Michigan State drove deep into Wolverine territory before the Michigan defense forced a Dan Conroy field goal.

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson responded with a 43-yard run to the Michigan State 32-yard line, but once again, a Wolverines’ drive was thwarted. A valiant effort by the Michigan defense gave the Wolverines one final shot at victory.

Robinson then led the Michigan offense on a courageous drive, battling a feisty Michigan State defense every step of the way. With just five seconds remaining, Gibbons battled a tough angle to kick a 39-yard field goal, giving Michigan a 12-10 win.

Michigan’s powerful offense never hit its stride in this game, a testament to the hard-hitting Michigan State defense. It’s fitting that this classic, defensive-oriented affair was the 900th victory in Michigan football history.

Thanks to ESPN, the Big Ten Network, YouTube and YouTube poster WolverineDevotee for the highlight film of this game. As always, I own and do not profit from this blog post in any way.

About Jeff Cummins

Jeff Cummins has written about football since 1998, including nine years with The Record of Hackensack, N.J. He frequently contributes feature stories to Touchdown Illustrated, an insert in the national college football game program, published by University Sports Publications, and he has also written the official pregame stories for the game programs of the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Gator Bowl, and the BCS National Championship game. He has written the preview story for the official program for the NHL Winter Classic at MIchigan Stadium, and numerous college basketball feature stories for College Hoops Illustrated, another game program insert published by University Sports Publications. In addition, he has written stories about theater, music, physical therapy, and newsletter marketing. He’s an avid Michigan football fan and long-time New York Jets season ticket holder, and he can be reached at